Lauded Caribbean author to give reading
Cezair-Thompson chosen for Visiting Scholar post at Bermuda College
Friday, April 13, 2007 11:20 AM
Margaret Cezair-Thompson was raised in a household whose atmosphere was a rich mix of politics, history and storytelling.
Public reading details:
When: Wednesday, April 18, at 7pm.
Where: in the Blue Room in New Hall at the Bermuda College, Paget.
Contact: Call 236-9000 ext. 4442 or 4259.
Books by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
n The True History of Paradise, is currently out of print, but is available at amazon.com and will be reprinted this fall.
n From Kingston to Kenya: The Making of a Pan-Africanist Lawyer by Dudley J. Thompson and Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Available at amazon.com
n The Pirate's Daughter is due out this fall.
So when the time came to write her first novel, The True History of Paradise, which is set in her native Jamaica, she had plenty of material to draw on.
Those who enjoy compelling stories will have the opportunity to hear why her book received such strong reviews when it was published in the U.S. eight years ago.
On Wednesday, she will give a public reading of The True History of Paradise at the Bermuda College. The reading gets under way at 7pm in the Blue Room in New Hall. If time permits, she may also read from her second novel, The Pirate's Daughter, due out this fall.
Bermuda College English lecturer Angela Barry said Dr. Cezair-Thompson has been invited to the College as a Visiting Scholar and as part of the Faculty of Liberal Arts' Literature Series.
She said The True History of Paradise was a "perfect fit" for a Caribbean literature class she taught last semester. Her students, she said, had received it enthusiastically.
"I thought it would be very valuable for students to see, in a single text, how what we know as the Caribbean today has emerged out of the vibrant and violent coming together of men and women from Africa, Europe and Asia," Ms Barry said.
"The Caribbean was a multi-cultural society long before the term was coined. In addition, the book examines the notion of 'paradise' and all those things not shown in the tourist brochures. We in Bermuda are very familiar with that scenario."
Dr. Cezair-Thompson, who has a Phd in English, teaches literature and creative writing at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She received all of her university education in the U.S., beginning at Barnard College in New York, where she obtained a bachelor's degree.
She is the daughter of Genevieve Cezair-Thompson and Jamaican lawyer and politician, QC Dudley Thompson, who is well known to Bermudians who were involved in the labour and political battles of the 1960s. Mr. Thompson, who last visited Bermuda in the 1990s, successfully defended Bermuda Industrial Union member Dr. Barbara Ball on charges arising out of the 1965 BELCO riots.
Dr. Cezair-Thompson was raised in a political household, but she told us in an e-mail interview that her father "did quite a good job of keeping us at a safe distance from partisan politics."
Politics were the source of many of the stories he passed on to her. She listened to his stories about Jamaican leaders such as Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, as well as African leaders such as Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta and Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, whom he befriended. Her father also loved language and brought her books of poetry to read.
She said: "My father's life has spanned almost a century of Caribbean and African history and being a lover both of history and storytelling and having a father who had so many first-hand stories of great events and people influenced me enormously.
"My mother is part Trinidadian and part Scottish, and her father, Dr. Hubert Cezair, was a sort of pioneer West Indian doctor in England in the 1930s and 40s, a man who was very historically and politically aware and who befriended many of the African and West Indian students and World War II soldiers in his home in Manchester, England; that's how my parents met. So, you see, I've had a lot of great stories handed down to me on both sides."
Her novel is set in Jamaica in 1981,when the island is in a state of emergency. The island's rich and complex history is woven into her story line and also emerges through the lives of her cast of characters.
Ms Barry said the novel is also an "engaging story of a family and one individual's struggle for personal freedom."
She said Dr. Cezair-Thompson is a wonderful reader. "For those who are familiar with the book, it will be a reminder of the great variety of the text and the vividness of the writing," she said. "For those who have not yet read it, this reading will stimulate a desire to get a copy.
"There will be some on sale and the author will sign copies at the end of the reading. And everyone who attends will enjoy listening to the cadences of Jamaican speech, which Dr. Cezair-Thompson captures in its full variety."
Dr Cezair-Thompson paid a brief visit to Bermuda about five years ago. She said she finds the island "intriguing because of its history and its special geographic position.
"I'm always thinking about history and for that reason Bermuda is fascinating to me: little island, big history."
Asked what she hopes the audience will take away from her reading, she said: "Hopefully, some delight in the written word."